Issue279 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published November 2003 Copyright © Socialist Review
George Galloway's expulsion from the Labour Party shows how hollow are Blair's platitudes about encouraging debate and democracy. A kangaroo court convicted Galloway of bringing the party into disrepute. And what were his crimes? Encouraging British troops not to participate in a criminal invasion justified by fabricated intelligence. Defending the right of Iraqis to resist such an imperial mission. Congratulating Socialist Alliance candidate Michael Lavalette for being elected as a councillor on an anti-war platform. And admitting that if he was forced out of Labour he would fight back.
While Galloway has played a leading role in one of the biggest movements in British political history, Tony Blair has lied to parliament and to the electorate. It is he who has brought his party into disrepute. He has dressed George Bush's oil grab in the garb of humanitarianism. But the emperor has no clothes--a fact huge numbers will point out when Bush visits London on 19 November.
Downing Street has already been forced to downgrade what was to be a full state visit with Bush parading down the Mall with the queen. A senior royal official told the Sunday Telegraph that fear of anti-war protests had pulled the plug on the photo opportunity, admitting that 'the White House made no attempt to hide their disappointment'.
The strain that has been obvious on Blair's face for the last year has yet to be politically terminal. Many people are understandably frustrated that we have yet to convert this warmonger's biggest crisis into his downfall. Certainly there are lessons to be learnt, but we shouldn't forget that the scale of the anti-war protests put the screws on the government, inspired the biggest school strikes for a century and won over a huge swathe of the labour movement to anti-imperialism.
Partly this has resulted in the bulk of the 'awkward squad' union leadership proposing to 'reclaim Labour'. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said at Labour Party conference that it took the Blairites ten years to gain control of the party, and that we would have to be patient.
The implication that we might have to endure another ten years of Blairism is a chilling one. Ten more years of exporting the disaster of rail privatisation onto the tube, NHS and education system; of appeasing police racism and attacking civil liberties; of demonising every worker who organises collectively to improve their quality of life; and no doubt of backing every colonial adventure cooked up in the White House.
The desire for a political alternative is greater than ever--the key is forging a credible alliance with the necessary social weight. This is where the organised working class is key. When one day of strike action by London postal workers costs their bosses 10 million, the argument that ordinary people have immense economic power suddenly becomes less abstract.
The enthusiasm for strike action--whether over London weighting payments, tube privatisation or the inspiring unofficial action against racism in Wolverhampton--can create the conditions where the political fund is diverted to real socialist forces. New Labour would like to present figures such as Galloway as isolated mavericks. But the very reason they are so threatening to the Blairites is that they speak for millions of ordinary people. That's why a breakthrough for tube, postal or council workers in their particular disputes could transform the terms on which this debate takes place. It could also have profound effects on our ability to stop the warmongers.